Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 1, 2018

REVIEW: Springfield Symphony , Verdi Requiem

Springfield Symphony, Springfield, MA
April 28, 2018
by Michael J. Moran

For the sixth concert in the SSO’s 74th season and his own 17th season as their music director, Kevin Rhodes notes in his “Rhodes’ Reflections” column in the program book, he chose a single work, the “greatest creation by Italy’s greatest composer,” Verdi’s “Requiem,” of which he and his assembled forces – the orchestra, 200 members of three choruses, and four solo singers, filling every square inch of the Symphony Hall stage – gave a blazingly powerful account.

The Springfield Symphony Chorus prepared by Nikki Stoia, the University of Massachusetts Amherst Chorale coached by Stephen A. Paparo, and the UMass Chamber Choir Illuminati and Vocal Arts Ensemble readied by Tony Thornton gave committed backing to lyrical soprano Lisa Gwyn Daltirus, warm-toned mezzo soprano Stacey Rishoi, heroic tenor Eric Ashcraft, and stentorian bass Gustav Andreassen. Rhodes made sure that the large orchestra never drowned out the solo or massed choral voices.

Verdi premiered his requiem in 1874 for the first anniversary of the death of Italian writer and nationalist Alessandro Manzoni. As written by arguably the greatest opera composer of all time, the seven movements of his 80-minute requiem unsurprisingly captured a wider emotional range than any other requiem in the standard classical repertory. Extreme contrasts of tempo and dynamics emerge even before the hushed opening “Requiem and Kyrie” movement gave way to the clashing first chords of the “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath), which, at 33 minutes, was by far the longest movement in the piece.

The only movement in which the chorus doesn’t sing is the third, “Offertory,” where the vocal interplay among the four soloists was especially vivid. The next movement, “Sanctus,” was a four-minute choral outburst of pure joy. After an affecting soprano-mezzo soprano duet in the “Agnus Dei” and a more virtuosic soprano-mezzo-bass trio in “Lux Aeterna,” the last movement, “Libera Me,” for soprano and chorus brought the Requiem to a highly dramatic but ultimately peaceful close.

The absence of Latin texts and English translations, which could have been included in the program book and/or projected over the stage, was the only flaw in an otherwise memorable occasion.